Sunday, November 25, 2012

Couldn't this place be a little more generous?

Spicy Kalbi Tang at Pine Hill Restaurant in Paramus.
The Korean restaurant serves grilled mackerel pike among the free side dishes.

Pine Hill Restaurant is the only Korean restaurant I know in Paramus -- which is the mall capital of North Jersey -- and it's far from the dozens of places that jockey for customers along Broad Avenue in Palisades Park.

Pine Hill also sets itself apart by serving at least 10 of the free side dishes that make a Korean meal so special.

But when four of us had dinner there on Saturday night, I began to wonder if serving more side dishes than most other Korean restaurants is enough.

Pine Hill has seen better days. Though clean, the interior was carried over from another restaurant, and hasn't ever been updated. 

The dinner menu lists a lot of sushi rolls and raw fish, but not that many entrees for non-meat eaters such as myself. 

No grilled fresh fish is available outside the mackerel pike in one of the side dishes.

Translucent Korean noodles are made from yam flour, not wheat.

After a waitress took our order, a tray was brought over and the small side dishes were arrayed on the table -- vegetables, fish and meat.

Pine Hill has some of the best cabbage kimchi around, both spicy and crunchy. The two mackerel pike were delicious.

Greens included fresh spinach. But the salad was iceberg, not the spring mix I've seen elsewhere. And slices of ham came with another cabbage side dish.

One of the complimentary side dishes or panchan.

A good Korean restaurant staff doesn't wait for the customer to ask for more panchan, but at Pine Hill our empty side dishes weren't replaced until I called over the waitress, who was chatting with other servers near the register.

I asked specifically for more kimchi and greens, but was disappointed we didn't get another set of the fatty mackerel pike.

For my entree, I ordered translucent noodles with vegetables called japchae, but asked the kitchen to hold the meat ($11.95).

A side dish of vegetable tempura.

The others had Stone-Bowl Bibimbap ($13.95), a rice, vegetable and ground-beef dish topped with a fried egg. A squeeze bottle of gochuhang, red-pepper paste, allows the diner to vary the spiciness.

The bibimbap came with a small bowl of soup, and an egg souffle in a stone bowl was brought for the table.

My teenage son asked for Spicy Kalbi Tang (also $13.95), a stew with beef short ribs, as hot as the kitchen could make it. It came with a small bowl of steamed white rice.

The food was good, and we had a filling dinner for about $16 each, including tip and tax.

But the relatively new Woochon Restaurant in Palisades Park serves as many side dishes, and they are of higher quality, so we might be going there the next time we want Korean food. 

Pine Hill Restaurant, 123 Paramus Road, 
Paramus; 201-843-0170. Open for lunch and dinner.

Woochon Restaurant, 280 Broad Ave., Palisades Park; 201-242-9999. Open for lunch and dinner.


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